Slavery, Land Ownership, and Black Women’s Community Networks

By Karen Cook Bell, Black Perspectives

Delia Garlic, a former slave in Virginia, Georgia, and Louisiana knew the worst of slavery, including violent punishment and forced separation from family members.1 In an interview with the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s, she offered an unsparing assessment of her enslavement saying “[them] days was hell…its bad to belong to folks [that] own you soul an’ body.”2 Delia Garlic provided a lucid narrative of her experiences as an enslaved woman. Her language suggests a bound and violently silenced Black body for whom ruthless exploitation was a fact of life, within an environment where disorder and human degradation were commonplace. Garlic’s narrative captures the imagination precisely because it is a nearly unimaginable horror.  While these conditions circumscribed much of day-to-day life, Black women found ways to carve out an alternate space for themselves that challenged scripts of race and gender.

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